An­gels drop the ball on Hamil­ton

Club gets a black mark for its in­tol­er­ance in the case of the trou­bled out­fielder.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - BILL PLASCHKE

It’s one thing to over­pay for aging first base­men or stum­bling out­field­ers, it’s quite an­other to plunk down about $60 mil­lion for in­tol­er­ance and in­sen­si­tiv­ity.

Yet, that’s what those fallen An­gels did Mon­day in rid­ding them­selves of their de­mon Josh Hamil­ton, ship­ping him and his ad­dic­tion prob­lems back to the Texas Rangers while eat­ing nearly half of his $125-mil­lion con­tract just to get him out of their sight.

Only the ex­pen­sive stench of An­gels owner Arte Moreno’s anger re­mains.

The saga that be­gan nearly three months ago when Hamil­ton ad­mit­ted a re­lapse in his so­bri­ety has fi­nally ended with the slug­ger re­turn­ing to a place where he ex­pe­ri­enced his great­est sup­port and suc­cess. He was a most valu­able player in Texas, a five­time All-Star, twice lead­ing the Rangers to the World Se­ries, and is thrilled to again be among friends.

“I’m back here, I’m back home,” said a clearly re­lieved Hamil­ton at a Mon­day af­ter­noon news con­fer­ence in Globe Life Park in Ar­ling­ton, Texas. “I’m go­ing to give ev­ery­thing I’ve got.”

Be­fore giv­ing the An­gels credit for gen­eros­ity of spirit for trad­ing Hamil­ton to his OK’d Cor­ral, un­der­stand that Hamil­ton had a no­trade clause in his con­tract, and thus could have, and prob­a­bly would have, halted a deal any­where else.

And be­fore prais­ing the An­gels for mak­ing the best of a bad sit­u­a­tion, un­der­stand that they put them­selves in this sit­u­a­tion in the first place.

Three years ago, they signed Hamil­ton to that gi­ant five-year deal even though they knew he had bat­tled ad­dic­tion his en­tire adult life. Yet, when he suc­cumbed to the dis­ease again this win­ter and re-

ported a re­lapse to Ma­jor League Base­ball, they sud­denly quit on him.

They cleaned out his spring-train­ing locker. They pulled his sou­venir mer­chan­dise from their shelves. They waited for base­ball to kick him to the curb, but when that didn’t hap­pen — he was prob­a­bly given a pass be­cause he re­ported the re­lapse be­fore fail­ing a test — they howled.

Yes, they be­came one of the first teams in sports his­tory to loudly com­plain that one of their play­ers was not suspended.

To steal a line from the An­gels’ sev­enth-in­ning stretch song, that’s not ex­actly build­ing him up, but­ter­cup.

“It de­fies logic that Josh’s re­ported be­hav­ior is not a vi­o­la­tion of his drug pro­gram,” An­gels Pres­i­dent John Carpino said to The Times’ Bill Shaikin at the time.

Later, Moreno piled on by giv­ing a chill­ing home opener in­ter­view in which he said he couldn’t guar­an­tee that Hamil­ton would play for the An­gels this sea­son and, by the way, it was all Hamil­ton’s fault.

“We un­der­stand that he’s had strug­gles, and ob­vi­ously he’s still hav­ing strug­gles, but the re­al­ity is there’s ac­count­abil­ity,” Moreno said at the time. “When you make an agree­ment, you need to stand up.”

Ex­cept, of course, when your chronic ill­ness knocks you down.

To be fair to the An­gels, be­fore Hamil­ton’s re­lapse, he wasn’t hold­ing up his end of the bar­gain on the field, go­ing hit­less in 13 post­sea­son at-bats last fall, play­ing in only 89 games last sum­mer, ac­cu­mu­lat­ing only a .739 OPS the pre­vi­ous sea­son.

“Josh, from the mo­ment he ar­rived here, there’s been tur­bu­lence,” Gen­eral Manager Jerry Dipoto said in a con­fer­ence call Mon­day. “If I can put a fin­ger on why Josh had a tough time here, we may have been able to help him solve those is­sues.”

So they were ad­mit­tedly out of touch with their in­vest­ment. Then when his re­lapse gave them a chance to dump him with­out pay­ing him, they jumped at it. Moreno was look­ing for his ex­cuse to get out of this bad deal, and thought he found it, even though it meant sub­ject­ing Hamil­ton to fur­ther public hu­mil­i­a­tion.

When Ma­jor League Base­ball wouldn’t do his dirty work for him, Moreno paid about $60 mil­lion to have it done. Yet, now it is his or­ga­ni­za­tion, once renowned for be­ing so in­clu­sive and fam­ily friendly, that car­ries the stain.

How hard will it be to lis­ten to an­other An­gel Sta­dium trade­mark song, “Call­ing All An­gels,” when you re­al­ize that Moreno tol­er­ates only those un­af­flicted An­gels? On the field, the team is 9-10 with an of­fense that has gone flat around Hamil­ton’s three left fielder-des­ig­nated hit­ter re­place­ments, Matt Joyce, C.J. Cron and Collin Cowgill, who are com­bin­ing for a .199 av­er­age with two home runs and a dozen runs bat­ted in.

How bad did the An­gels want to get rid of Hamil­ton? They chose to burn maybe the most mad money in base­ball his­tory in­stead of wait­ing to see whether he could get hot again. Hamil­ton had three years and about $80 mil­lion left on his con­tract. The Rangers re­port­edly will pick up less than $7 mil­lion of it, and Hamil­ton is ex­pected to for­feit at least $12 mil­lion to the An­gels to off­set the ben­e­fit of play­ing in Texas, where there is no state in­come tax.

Hamil­ton, who turns 34 next month, said he was re­cov­ered from off-sea­son shoul­der surgery and was ready to play. Why not send him to triple-A Salt Lake to see whether he could find him­self again? He won an MVP award with the Rangers in the sea­son af­ter his last re­lapse, why not see whether the same resur­gence hap­pens again? And even if you still didn’t want him, couldn’t you have then com­manded more for him in a trade?

“I worked my butt off to be that guy this year go­ing into this sea­son with the An­gels,” Hamil­ton said Mon­day. “They just didn’t want that to hap­pen for some rea­son.” You think? Hamil­ton also chal­lenge Moreno’s as­ser­tion that he was not accountable, say­ing, “I have no clue what he’s talk­ing about. I showed up ev­ery day and played hard when I was there.”

He added: “[Moreno] knew what the deal was when he signed me. Hands down, he knew what he was get­ting. He knew what the risks were. He knew all those things.”

Moreno made his bed, and then he dumped it when the sheets be­came itchy, and if that doesn’t scare away prospec­tive An­gels freeagent prospects, noth­ing will.

Dipoto said the An­gels had trade talks with other teams but Hamil­ton, who has a full no-trade clause in his con­tract, wanted to re­turn to Texas, where he lives in the off-sea­son.

“The rea­son I’m mak­ing cer­tain changes in my life is I want to be OK af­ter base­ball is over,” said Hamil­ton, who will be tested for drugs and al­co­hol five times per week, up from three times per week in re­cent years. “I’ve done a lot of grow­ing, learn­ing and soul-search­ing over the last few weeks.”

In the end, the re­sult is a good one, a win­ning one, for the Rangers and their trou­bled for­mer star. Hamil­ton is in good hands. It is ques­tion­able whether the same can be said for the An­gels.

Tom Pen­ning­ton Getty Images

JOSH HAMIL­TON says at news con­fer­ence he is “back home” in re­turn to the Texas Rangers.

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